We took it easy this morning, catching up on sleep and relaxing before we left the ship.
A little after 1 pm we left the ship and headed into the Cruise Terminal. The ship is connected to the terminal by a long, folding, jetway type bridge. Once in the terminal there is a HAL rep checking cruise cards for returning guests. Free WIFI is available here attracting a handful of guests sitting in chairs checking up on email and surfing the web. We learned later that you could receive the free WiFi from the ship on deck 3 and deck 8 toward the center of the ship.
After passing the HAL security we proceeded down a long series of hallways, maybe a couple hundred yards, until we reach some stairs leading down to the arrival hall one level below. It looks much like the arrival hall in an airport with multiple kiosks where immigration officials check passports and visas of arriving guests. There weren’t any lines and the passport check only took a few seconds as he verified that the name on the landing card matched the name on the passport and then verifying that the passport picture matched the person standing in front of him. Next was the X-ray machines and metal detectors which were standard airport security style only with much larger X ray machines to accommodate full size luggage.
HarbourFront Centre is a large shopping center that is adjacent to the cruise terminal and sits right on top of the HarbourFront MRT station. Following well marked signs we walked thru the maze of shops to the MRT station below and found the MRT ticket office where we bought a two day MRT pass which allows transit on any bus or subway for $16 SGD , or $8 SGD a day (plus a $10 SGD refundable deposit). They accept cash or Mastercard. The MRT system is similar to the Washington DC metro system – or for that matter – any big city subway system. If you are familiar with any big city system you will be able to figure out Singapore’s system in a few minutes. If you are not familiar with subway systems, take a little more time to get your bearings and don’t hesitate to ask for help or directions to make sure you get on the correct train.
Before you venture into the system you need to familiarize yourself with the names of the various lines and the names of the terminating stops on those lines so you can be sure you pick the correct platform for the direction you are headed. For example we would be traveling to Chinatown on the Northeast line. Since the terminating stop for the direction we would be heading was Punggol – you would look for signs labeled “Northeast Line – Punggol 6” as opposed to “Northeast Line – HabourFront”. We only had one choice here at HarbourFront: Punggol since HarbourFront was a termination point for the Northeast Line.
If you desired, you could buy single ride tickets from automated machines throughout the station. To enter the station, you place your plastic ticket card on a disc located next to the entrance gates which will turn green and open once your card is validated. The machine shows the expiration date of the card / value remaining depending on what type of card you purchased.
Our first stop was Chinatown where we would be looking for a yarn shop called “The Golden Dragon” located in the Peoples Park Centre. The shop sold yarn in addition to other items and was more like a smaller version of JoAnn Fabrics in the USA. Judy looked around for a bit, but didn’t find anything interesting so we pressed on toward a shopping center called One Raffles Place.
It was about ½ mile to One Raffles Place from the Peoples Park Centre in Chinatown and while the temperature was in the low 90s the high humidity made it feel a little worse. We walked slowly and stopped in the shade often. One interesting spot was Hong Lim Park on the corner of Havelock Road and New Bridge Road. A corner of the park was labeled “Speakers Corner”. This is a designated “free speech” area available to residents after registering with a nearby police station. Judy and I each gave a quick “speech” to a deserted park and then continued on toward Raffles Place. We were a little surprised to see posters advertising a Tom Jones Concert here on March 31st. Didn’t know he was still touring at age 75.
One Raffles place is a large, air conditioned, multistory shopping center located above a MRT stop. We strolled the halls lined with a variety of shops and up and down the various floors. We did buy a pillow with the sunglasses smiley face design but nothing else caught our eye. We took the elevator down to the basement and caught the metro to the City Hall Station where we would walk a few blocks to the Raffles Hotel.
The Raffles hotel has been a fixture in Singapore since it opened in 1887. The Long Bar, famous for inventing the National Cocktail – The Singapore Sling, is now on the second floor after being moved from the lobby during the 1989-1991 renovation. We stopped into the Long Bar to get a Singapore Sling and a bite to eat. The Singapore Sling was $28 SGD ($20 USD) and soft drinks were $9 SGD ($6.50 USD). We got the “discount” combo for $62 SGD ($45 USD) which included a very good cheeseburger, fries and a Singapore Sling. Peanuts are provided at each table in burlap sacks and you are expected to toss the shells on the floor. Halfway thru our meal the HAL tour entered the Long Bar and went to a private area one floor above where they enjoyed a Singapore Sling as part of their tour. WiFi was available only for hotel guests.
After our lunch we wandered around the hotel and arcade shops. The entrance to the lobby was restricted to guests, but as long as you acted as if you belonged, you could go inside at look around. We strolled thru the lobby and the adjacent Writers Bar before sitting down in the lobby to rest and plan our next steps. You must be wearing long pants and a collared shirt to go into the lobby. Shorts and T shirts are OK in the Long Bar.
A few blocks away was the National Library Building with the main library in the basement and the reference library on floors 7 thru 14. We always enjoy visiting libraries and never pass up the chance to visit one wherever we go. The library was very nice and modern with 90% of the books in the area we wandered thru in English. They had one section called the Investors Area where many people were staring at screens filled with stock charts analyzing their next move in the markets around the world.
An MRT stop was a few blocks away and since we were very tired from walking in the heat we decided to head back to the ship. Once inside the Bras Basah MRT station we were faced with 4 choices – The red North South Line to either Jurong East or Marina South or the Orange Circle Line to Marina Bay or HarbourFront. Since our ultimate destination was HarbourFront we thought about taking the line in that direction. But after looking at our transit map we realized the Orange Line in that direction would take us way out of the city and while we would eventually end up at the right spot, we would be on the train a lot longer that necessary. We took the Red line to Dhoby Ghaut and then the Purple Line to HarbourFront.
We retraced our steps through the HarbourFront Shopping Centre, back thru the metal detectors and immigration and finally down the long hallways, past the free wifi site and onto the ship.
Dinner tonight was fabulous. I had the Fresh Catch Seabass (whenever the menu labels fish as Fresh Catch the fish is indeed fresh from the local area) and it was as good as any Seabass I ever had at one of the fancy seafood houses in San Diego. It was really amazing.
The daily “On Location Guide” advertised a special Singapore Music and Dance show in the Queens Lounge at 9:30 pm, but apparently there was some last minute glitch and the show was cancelled and replaced by the movie “Joy”.This entry was posted in Uncategorized